Latter-day Saint Life

The delicious, cheesy history of funeral potatoes and Latter-day Saints

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Cheese. Potatoes. Cornflakes. Or potato chips? It depends. Either way, when Latter-day Saints think about cheesy potato goodness, they are thinking about funeral potatoes. There seems to be no right way to make them except the way that your family does. Every Utahn is a self-proclaimed funeral potatoes connoisseur, but what’s the history of this delectable dish?

You have questions. We have answers.

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Where did funeral potatoes come from?

Conventional wisdom holds that nobody really knows who created this dish. The Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is given credit for serving funeral potatoes at luncheons, and the dish turned into a phenomenon. Early Relief Society cookbooks include funeral potato recipes, leading people to conclude that the Relief Society might have created them. While the New York Post calls these potatoes “disturbing,” food journalist Jenn Rice has proclaimed them “one of the most oddly satisfying dishes in America.”

In Salt Lake Magazine, Tammy Hanchett, a third-generation Utahn, recalled her grandmother making funeral potatoes for Sunday dinner. “My grandmother used to make her own white sauce, and she never had an exact recipe,” Hanchett said. “She’d add a dollop of this and a dollop of that. I’ll never taste potatoes like that again.”

The precise origins of this dish remain obscure. Some have pointed out that the American South has a similar dish. Others have readily accepted the idea that Latter-day Saint women originated the dish with their thrifty and productive skills. Or these potatoes might be a budget mix of the French potatoes au gratin.

You can read more about the history of funeral potatoes in Utah and Latter-day Saint culture on Deseret News.

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